January 29, 2012

The Four Major Rivers Restoration Project Is Combined with 1281 Water Quality Improvement Projects

Sang Bae Kim, Director General of Environmental Water Quality Control

How would the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project improve water quality?

The Four Major Rivers Restoration Project includes 1281 water quality improvement projects on top of the dredging work. It is to increase the number of pollution processing facilities and to restore contaminated rivers in environmentalfriendly means and more than anything it is essential to manage so that the results of water quality improvement project create long-term effects. After completion of the project, approximately 1.3 billion tons of water will be added to enhance water quality.

How is the forecast system for water quality operated?

Forecast system for water quality is a system that scientifically predicts the future state of water quality in comprehensive consideration of the following components; current water quality, water volume conditions, and pollutant data. First, it is operated in a manner to predict water quality for seven days and a series of predictions are spread to all institutions related to the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project and utilized in pre-emptive and preventive water quality management.

What has to be kept in mind for systematic integration of water management?

The anti-project activists mentioned the possibility of algae from the increased residence time. What is more important here is to identify the amount of pollutant or water residence time relating to algae creation. As actual examples, we can take a look at the Bukhan River with many dams. Water residence time in the Bukhan River is more than 300 days the longest. Despite of this fact, it has never had a problem with algae due to low influx of pollutants. With this in mind, measures to prevent influx of phosphorus, which is the main cause of algae formation is being organized.

In addition to improving water quality, preservation of aquatic ecosystem was also a buzzword.

Special efforts have been paid for the conservation of aquatic ecosystem as we progress through the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project. River shoreline (riparian) was put intact in its natural state including the trees and bushes. Only when it was unavoidable, the concrete was used and the corresponding section is only 0.2 percent of the entire plan. It is comparative to the Han River Development Project where 88 percent of the plan was raised by the concrete. For the wetlands that have ecological values or are large enough, the construction was executed to conserve their original state resulting in preservation of the Bucheowool wetland in the Han River. There are wetlands that had to be inevitably affected from the construction process but new wetlands were created to be replaced in 179 different places.

For fish protection measures, endangered species that are under the legal protection were artificially incubated and discharged and 33 eco-friendly fish ways were also created.

To me, the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project isIt is the ‘protection of life and the source.’ I got a chance to go back and realize the true meaning of life and harmony of human and nature. As watching the life grows again in the rivers, I believe this river can become a valuable asset that we pass on to the next generation.

‘Water Seepage’ Phenomenon Not a Safety Issue

Chul Moon Kim, Director General of Project Support Bureau

It has been known for you to be very busy visiting project sites across the nation. Do you feel worthwhile?

Now, Korea has obtained advanced water management system that is internationally proud. It has a built in system that allows the automatic control in a single spot, and is better than the Japanese system. There were difficulties during its course, but the government had faith in this project that it is what we need for our future. As a person who participated in policy-making of the project I have poured passion and affection to be judged solely with results by the future generations. Widened rivers with dredging work and reinforcement of dykes resulted in almost no damage from flood last summer.

What was the biggest challenge in overall project for on-site control and management?

Somehow the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project had become a pawn stuck in between the political debates. Even if we were doing the right thing, we had to constantly give excuses to answer questions here and there. The simultaneous construction across the country added a burden to manage multiple sites under control.

Recently there are concerns about the ‘water seepage’ phenomenon in the Sangju Weir.

Recently raised leaking phenomenon in some fixed weirs such as Sangju Weir and Gumi Weir is a minor issue that could happen in any other constructions prior to completion. The weirs are structurally safe and repair work will be done before the completion of the project.

What is the method behind the efficient management for project promotion?

The integrated management system was built to effectively manage and control project sites anywhere and anytime via online by installation of CCTV and hydrographs in 170 different sites. During the rainy season, flood stage of river and stream near the dams was obtained in real time and the sites were managed with no trouble based on this system.

Where would you want to recommend people to visit?

In the Han River, Ipo Weir and the Gancheon Island would be the perfect place to bring kids for a picnic and in the Geum River, I would like to recommend Hapgangjeong, Miho Stream, and Ecological Wetland for the best preservation of nature. In the Nakdong River, Maae Statue of Buddha Theme Park became one of the popular attractions and waterfront parks were beautifully created near the Seungchon Weir of the Yeongsan River.

To me, the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project isIt is ‘a battle with myself.’ In the course of the project, I attended court as a congressional witness and suffered heavily in conflicts with the opposite groups. In retrospect, these hardships were the disciplines to guide me to be stronger. I got to have times to look back in time and try harder.

Objection just to be on the Other Side is National Energy Loss

Si Kwon Ahn, Director General of Planning Bureau

There is the continuous request for international technical assistance and know-how transfer.

International political and embassy officials were impressed and gave much praise. Recently, the former Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra has visited the project sites of the Geum River and the Han River keened to be inherited the technology and experience. From the governmental perspective, it is being positively reviewed because propagation of the technology and know-how can advance national interest and benefit the world as a leading role in responding to climate change and water problems in Asia. Morocco and Colombia have also shown interests.

What have been revised from the original plan as in reduction of dredging amount?

It is true there were some changes made from the original plan. The amount of dredging has been reduced 100 millionm3 in the process of designing and construction from the original master plan. There was the time difference between the original master plan and the materials for designing and also there was the difference from the dimension of the riverbed in the master plan due to absence of precision. Some sites had limitations while handling the dredged soil, so there was the need for adjustment in the middle of the project. Nevertheless, the changes were made not to hinder the effects, goals, and expectations as originally planned.

How did you cope with the situations led to social conflicts such as compensation issues?

It was not avoidable to confront conflicts in some regions because the riverside farming had to be stopped. Financial compensation has been made but for it had to be in accordance with government regulations and policies, it may have been insufficient. Any reasonable issues raised in the future will be welcomed.

There are arguments that the waterfront method promotes improper and random development.

There seems to be a concern on random development of nightlife accommodations. However, the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project prevents reckless development and resiliently ensures systematic maintenance and management to provide quality of life in the public sector of the area. Those who opposed to the enactment of Special Act to Utilization of Waterfront Area and preparation of the subsequent policies say that the Special Act will promote speculation of the land and benefit only a few people but it is not true. To prevent random development by systematic sharing system and to evenly allocate the developmental profit is much better than a few merchants make money.

Is there any regret in two years of project promoting process?

Frankly speaking, a lot of people were against this project just to be on the other side. Unnecessary opposition can be a trouble for the government as the subject to carry on with the project. There is no other way than providing explanation for the raised claims, which is found to be administrative waste.
Hopefully it will not happen in the future as economically wasteful aspects were found in the process causing social conflicts and losing national resources.

To me, the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project isIt is ‘to have consistent aim.’ As a person who participated in the establishment of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project Master Plan announced in June, 2009 the projects consistency between its original intention and the results is most important.

January 26, 2012

Supple Government and the Rigid Environmental Movements

Yoon Jung Cha, Environment Administrator of the Office of National River Restoration

You must have gone through a lot of distress being in part of this project as an ecology expert?

Envi ronmental organi zat ions and civi l society had appealed to public sentiment in an unprofessional stance by indiscriminate attacks toward us and the project with respect to the environment and ecology. I was hurt a lot at that time.

I thought it had to be somebody from the field of ecology and I would be the perfect fit, but didn’t know it would cause this much of trouble.

Why were the environmental groups extremely opposed to the project?

It may be because of thei r ident ity pursuing innate characteristics of the nature and opposing to any kind of artificial act. Through 1980s and 1990s, the civil society has attained much success in changing the awareness of the people to be deterrent toward the indiscriminate development and introducing institutional systems and procedures. The government has accepted social trend and became flexible but yet civil and environmental movements are rigid with criticism. Moving away from developmentoriented government, it promotes businesses to preserve the environment even in the tasks from the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs. The government is changed and now considering the environmental aspects, but the environmental movement is not giving any credits for it.

While the system has been changed, the movement stays still.

How is the ecosystem conservation being coordinated with the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project?

From a straight ecological perspective, it may be desirable not to install lateral structures or the weirs. However, it is has to be done it becomes challenge that calls for the ecological technology. What it means is that we must overcome the situation that human society stands against the nature. It may inevitably give ecological impact but it is bound to be a challenge. So this project can be ecologically considered as ‘concessions and challenges.’

Are there any alternatives to eliminate conflicts between environmental preservation and development?

It is important to find a resolution model adequate for conflict elimination by focusing on what we really want (in terms of the environment) and to confirm where we stand and redefine the relationship.

Now is the time that environment and ecology NGOs must start with a determination to preserve the rivers by water system freshly from the scratch. It is expected to find a new cooperative model if it is being searched with the picture of the earliest rivers and nature.

Especially where among those waterfront areas would you live to recommend to the people?

Out of all the places, there isn’t a single place not worth visiting. They are all very equally beautiful. But if I have to choose a place, I would recommend Yeoju Weir with exotic charm and genuine appearance of the river. Among the three weirs of the Han River, it stands in the deepest of the nature.

It is petit but charming. Not only that when looked down from the weir, the river is just magnificent. It was my first time seeing such a big river for me to even go across, so serene and peaceful with no buildings around.

To me, the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is
For me, the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is ‘ fuss and troubles.’ I could have been a quiet and polite ecologist as before but it turned out that I turned myself into an issue getting involved in the project. Of course, I have grown to be a fighter for the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project. Even though I become a little more sensitive after the project, but it is clear that it was the significant challenge in my life.

Confident that It Has Achieved the Predicted Performance

Hyung Pyo Hong, Project Administrator of the Office of National River Restoration

How is the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project different from the previous river maintenance and water resources development?

Until this project, water resources management was handled separately of the flood protection and irrigation not to mention the quality control. But the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is different from the previous management that the plans were established in conjunction with all of the dimensions related to water from flood protection, irrigation, and environment to quality control.

In the initial implementation of the project, there must have been difficulties such as with liquidated damage.

First of all, the vinyl houses scattered around riverside and the illicit farm land had to be removed. It had to be done one way or another to cut pollution sipping into the rivers but it was a difficult task for the compensation issues were combined with migration dilemma. The central government promoting this movement facilitated the realization of the plan. 33 thousands of vinyl houses were removed near the four rivers to create waterfront parks in the size of 13,884m2.

To how much extent is the anticipated economic effect including creation of new jobs and employment?

According to the master plan originally proposed for economic investment, it has been mentioned that 340 thousand new employments will be created. It is difficult to compute the exact figure of employed workers because the indirect employment effects also have to be under account. According to the recent survey results by the Ministry of Employment and Labor the number of new employments created is less than what has been initially proposed, or 340,000 new employments, however, it was identified to have achieved 86% so far. In the course of implementing the project, I would like to emphasize that it has given the big impact to be off economic crisis. The economic effect that will be generated through the active use of waterfront areas and culture and tourism industry is expected to be bigger.

Do you believe that the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is being completed to fit the original purpose?

Flood protection and irrigation, environment, and water quality levels planned during the establishment and implementation of master plan are achieving the results anticipated. In fact, it is a huge project and therefore the relating effects will continue to be revealed. Since there will be many changes in the future dependent on maintenance and facilities development, it is important to relate development and application. It had faced many difficulties from the beginning, but it has been evaluated to attain predicted performance and expected results.

If there are areas that need to be supplemented, what would they be?

At this point, River Act is being moored at the Parliament.

Previously maintenance was not an option but this amended law will establish a new framework for the river maintenance.

In conjunction with next year’s budget, it is expected to be passed and enforcement decree will be prepared by March. It will be a big turning point in the river management that has been insufficient despite of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project,

To me, the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is
I think it is ‘Fortune.’ As a public official I feel proud of the fact that I was a part of such huge project for the long-awaited water resource development. I believe it was a good opportunity because investment in rivers had not been made in the past.

The Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is a Page in the History that Breathes in Life in the River

Myung Pil Shim, Minister of the Office of National River Restoration

The opening ceremonies for weirs ended with a flourish. It must have relieved you. How do you feel now?

The project is not yet completed. However, what is rewarding for us is that the people who visit the site look more than impressed enjoying the changes that were made to the river. Especially the bike paths seem to provide the most welcoming ground to the people in terms of utilizing riverside areas. Since I became responsible of this vast project I have visited the site many times.

Drawing a rough shape of the finished project next year, my heart flutters that I cannot wait.

How would you put in words the significance of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project and its anticipated effects?

The Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is not a simple civil engineering project, but a page in the history that gives the new breathes to rivers of Korea. It is the multi-purpose project with combined aspects of civil engineering, environment, culture, and tourism. It is expected that completion of the project will effectively protect the people’s lives and property from droughts and floods. The annual flood damage in average reaches KRW 2.7 trillion and restoration expenditure KRW 4.2 trillion and this project is expected to significantly alleviate the burden of those costs. Also the water quality is forecasted to improve due to water procurement and contaminant management of the project, which will restore the ecosystem. According to the analysis from the National Institute of Environmental Research, ratio of the qualified water in Grade II will raise from 76% to 86%. It will also contribute to improving the quality of people’s lives by creating space with appropriate environment for all culture, tourism, and leisure. Yet there are still works left to be supplemented, but most of the people who visited the four rivers after the opening made an assessment that they are satisfied with changes from the project. We will do our best to successfully finish the project complementing lacking areas by listening to the opinions of the residents.

What were the claims from the people against the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project and how did you cope with it?

Despite the record-breaking rainfalls, the effective results from the project were visualized with minimized damage from floods near the project sites. The positive evaluation about the project is being spread from the people who have visited the site since the opening ceremony. On the other side, there were some environmental groups continued to oppose the project from the beginning.

Interview Hyun Sup Song, Photography Ho Sang Yang, New Daily Press

Efforts to help them understand of the project more accurately were made but it was a difficult task to change their perspectives when they were biased from the start. It was a tough road for they did not even admit the misconception.

Typically, there were claims to call the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project the canal project or to insist that it had caused the destruction of the wetlands and re-accumulation of sediments based on erroneous data. But it had been two years already and until now no one has brought out the issue of how it could lead to the canal project. The dissenters are divided into two group; one is not fully aware of the contents and the other is in the act of objection unconditionally. Various efforts were devoted by presenting accurate information and providing clarifying explanation. Field trips and Waterfront Festivals of the Four Rivers were especially a great help giving them to see the project with their own eyes and resolving misunderstandings.

Total of 16 ‘multi-purpose weirs’ were installed. What would be necessary to efficiently manage and maintain the structures?

Maintenance and management after the completion are important in all SOC (Social Overhead Capital) projects. In case of roads, bridges, and railway constructions, it is also essential to maintain and manage after it had been completed. So is the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project.

The waterfront conditions have been greatly improved through the Project but in order to maintain this performance is the need for maintenance. The central government manages the infrastructures such as dykes and reservoirs, K-water is responsible for the management of multi-purpose weirs, flood control areas, the cultural centers, and the local governments manage national streams besides the four major rivers as well as the facilities for residents. From now on, the central government, K-water, and the local governments will systematically manage the weirs and the waterfront areas followed by the characteristics of the functional role.

It is also important for the residents who use the four rivers to have the mind to converse the river.

There is significantly higher interest from the overseas. Where does this project stand in the world stage?

Contacts are made mostly through the foreign embassies in Korea.

As it had been completed at the end of this year, many foreigners are visiting the project sites.

Southeast Asia countries such as Vietnam, China, Malaysia, and Mongolia, African countries such as Morocco and Uganda, Paraguay of South America, and the countries around the Danube river starting from Rumania paid great attention so far.

Senior officials from around the world, policy makers, and water professionals came to visit the site and the office of national river restoration and delivered their will to adapt the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project into the water management of their countries. It is necessary to build the national basis for the Korean companies to take the advantages in overseas water-related businesses. By the end of this year or next year, it is expected to establish the practical cooperation with Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, South America, Africa, and Eastern European countries by continent.

Are there preferential principles in the decision-making process of the project?

The principles stand where they have to make it become “the business that had to be done” even in 10 or 20 years later not just the business to satisfy the current needs. Above all, it has been prepared for climate change and its performance is fully expected against floods at intervals of 2-3 years or horrendous droughts at intervals of 10-20 years. By this project, the reality of Korea that lacks the space for leisure activities is also amended to get a step closer to ideal with many people that come and stay in the waterfront areas.

If you are to advise the people who would participate in the future national projects?

As much as there are many difficulties in large-scale national projects, it gives you realization that you are serving the country and contributing to the national development. It is important more than anything to have an active stance with pride. Large-scale national projects such as Incheon International Airport Project, Kyeongbu highway, Kyeongbu speed rail, and the construction of the Cheonseong tunnel always had much difficulty in promotion and progress with lots of opposed parties. However, most people now admit that those projects were absolutely necessary. Attitude to constantly move forward is needed because the fair assessment will be made over time if the work is done with authenticity and sincerity.

Many national projects will be promoted in the future. With the pride in projects that they will contribute to the national economic development recognize them as a way of serving the country and you will be able to make it through.

Stay convicted, move forward, and eventually the fair historical assessment will be waiting at your door.

To me, the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project is
Is the nature and the civilization. Rivers as natural heritage must not only be maintained undamaged its original functions but also be kept in a good shape. It is the target that we humans make a good use out of not a mere exhibition. The four rivers are the nature that must be kept safe and the civilization for the future as the ancient four rivers were.

The Amazing Change of Nature, Waterfront Areas Before and After #3

Harmony Conceived by the Breath of Nature and Man’s Hand

Nature Learning Center of the Yeongsan River in Gwangju City
Area near the Seungyong Bridge at Seochang District 1 of the Yeongsan River in Gwangju City was reanimated as the Nature Learning Center. After dredging facilitated the flow of water, the Nature Learning Center, observatory, and the bike trails were structured. The bike trails has grown to be the course loved by a lot of riders.

Damyang Stream Waterside Maintenance of the Yeongsan River
Damyang Stream which flows penetrating Damyang-gun of Jeonnam has been cleanly renovated and bike trails were made along the riverside. Its significant change of the appearance after the project can be noticed even at a glance. Damyang Stream is connected to the beauty of Damyang, Gwanbangje forest and Metasequoia road and it is also the place where Damyang Bamboo Festival is held every summer. The maintenance of Damyang Stream is the barometer that the Four Major Ri ver s Res torat ion Project will refurbish the tributaries followed by the mainstreams.

Waterfront Area in Nongong District of the Nakdong River
The waterfront park constructed in Geumpo-ri, Nongoing-eup of Dalseong-gun, Daegu. As the Gangjeong Weir was installed nearby, the emptied area around the Seongsan Bridge was converted into an ecological park. In 2011, the summer was dreaming greener than ever with trees planted on Arbor Day of that year and the autumn was filled with cosmos blossoms. The walking trail is just perfect for strolling amongst flowers and trees that wear different colored costumes that every season of nature offers.

Hwamyeong Ecological Park of the Nakdong River in Busan
Completed the first of the waterfront areas, Hwamyeong Ecological Park in Busan has provided the future prospects of how the waterfront areas will be converted into to the people. In front of the towering highrise apartments, sports facilities were created. As the best resting place for the Busan residents it is equipped with nature learning center, spor ts facilities, bike paths, and walking trail. It takes longer than an hour just to tour around the park. For ease of access, ramp and parking space were also expanded.